Kevin Drum on what John McCain is doing to American politics:
John McCain has obviously decided that he can't win a straight-up fight, so he's decided instead to wage a battle of character assassination, relentless lies, and culture war armageddon. So what happens on November 5th?
If McCain wins, he'll face a Democratic congress that's beyond furious. Losing is one thing, but after eight years of George Bush and Karl Rove, losing a vicious campaign like this one will cause Dems to go berserk. They won't even return McCain's phone calls, let alone work with him on legislation. It'll be four years of all-out war.
And what if Obama wins? The last time a Democrat won after a resurgence of the culture war right, we got eight years of madness, climaxing in an impeachment spectacle unlike anything we'd seen in a century. If it happens again, with the lunatic brigade newly empowered and shrieking for blood, Obama will be another Clinton and we'll be in for another eight years of near psychotic dementia.
Am I exaggerating? Sure. Am I exaggerating a lot? I don't think so. McCain, in his overwhelming desire for office, is unloosing forces that are likely to make the country only barely governable no matter who wins. This would be very bad juju at any time, but George Bush has so seriously weakened the country over the course of his administration that we don't have a lot of room for error left if we want to avoid losing the war on terror for good and turning America into a banana republic while we're at it. We need to start turning the ship around now.
McCain doesn't seem to care much about this anymore, but the rest of us ought to. Unfortunately, no one asked us. I'm afraid we have some rocky times ahead.
There was a flutter of attention when McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told a group of Post reporters and editors yesterday that his team was having to rework the vice presidential acceptance speech because the original draft, prepared before Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen, was too "masculine." While we all wondered to ourselves what might make a speech masculine or feminine, no one batted an eye at the underlying revelation: that the campaign was writing the nominee's speech before knowing who the nominee would be.
Never mind the prehistoric days when a politician might be expected to write his or her own words; speechwriters have been around since long before television. But traditionally their job was to channel their bosses' thoughts and ideas into poetry, or at least comprehensible English. Nowadays, apparently it's naive to expect a speech even to reveal something of the essential views or character of the speaker. Instead, campaigns -- not just the McCain campaign -- draft their speeches with an eye to which demographic groups need to receive which messages, and then we in the media rate the speeches based on how well we think they hit those targets.
So when you watch Sarah Palin tonight, expect to learn something about how well she handles a Teleprompter. Expect to learn something about the McCain campaign's assessment of its political standing with women, or working families, or social conservatives. Whether you're learning what Sarah Palin really thinks or feels is anybody's guess.
Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin's background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice.
Although the McCain campaign said that Mr. McCain had known about Bristol Palin’s pregnancy before he asked her mother to join him on the ticket and that he did not consider it disqualifying, top aides were vague on Monday about how and when he had learned of the pregnancy, and from whom.
While there was no sign that her formal nomination this week was in jeopardy, the questions swirling around Ms. Palin on the first day of the Republican National Convention, already disrupted by Hurricane Gustav, brought anxiety to Republicans who worried that Democrats would use the selection of Ms. Palin to question Mr. McCain's judgment and his ability to make crucial decisions.
At the least, Republicans close to the campaign said it was increasingly apparent that Ms. Palin had been selected as Mr. McCain's running mate with more haste than McCain advisers initially described.
The rumors that Trig Palin was actually the son of Bristol Palin were started last spring by Republicans in Alaska that don't like Sarah Palin. None of the well-trafficked left-wing bloggers ran with this rumor. It appeared in diaries submitted by users and on lower trafficked blogs that are not usually associated with the blogosphere. We used good judgment and respect in not racing off to push unfounded rumors affecting a 17-year old girl. Andrew Sullivan is not a part of the left-wing blogosphere. He is a reformed Republican.
But more offensive than this false charge that the 'leftosphere and their pals in the MSM' pushed this rumor is the idea that 'decent Americans of all political stripes [should] respect their wish to keep the young couple out of the news.' It is the Palins that decided to put the young couple in the news. And not just the news. This will become a topic of discussion in every country in the world. Everyone will now know that Bristol Palin had underage, out-of-wedlock sex, and became pregnant. They'll know it in Buenos Aires and in Khartoum. They'll know it in Ho Chi Minh City and they'll know it Saskatoon. That's not the fault of the 'leftosphere' or the fault of Andrew Sullivan. It's the Palins fault for accepting the nomination to be vice-president. Bristol Palin is going to have a baby in December or January. Did they think the world wouldn't notice? . . . .
This is an invasion of stupidity into the body politic. John McCain probably never asked whether Bristol Palin was pregnant because that would be rude. He probably asked, "Is there anything else that you can think of that might embarrass the campaign?" And the Palins probably furrowed their brows and thought very hard and then said, "Nope, nothing we can think of."
But even if they did tell John McCain that their seventeen year-old daughter was pregnant and then decided to wait until Hurricane Gustav made landfall to divulge that information, it still isn't our fault that sheepherders in New Zealand will know all about little Bristol's premarital sex. That's their fault for not protecting their daughter.
We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It's called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired his boss. She first denied Monegan's claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened.
We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that, as parents, we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We're proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.
Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi's privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.